Planet Golf — 17 May 2019 by GW staff and news services
Koepka sets course record; leads PGA

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It was fitting that Brooks Koepka was paired with Tiger Woods in the opening round at the PGA Championship.

Especially considering the last player to dominate major championship golf like Koepka has been lately was, in fact, Woods.

Koepka opened his PGA Championship defense with a course-record 7-under 63 at what is supposed to be the difficult Black course at Bethpage State Park.

It was the only bogey-free round on Thursday and gave the PGA TOUR Player of the Year a one-shot lead over New Zealand’s Danny Lee, while being four shots better than anyone else.

The course played to an average 73.064, highlighting just how epic Koepka’s (and Lee’s) play was on Thursday.

Koepka has won three of the last seven majors he has contested. Should he make it four out of eight, he will be the first to do so since Woods won four majors over the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Woods, who beat Koepka by a shot at last month’s Masters, was left as a spectator in his round of 2-over 72.

Even so, the 81-time PGA TOUR winner and 15-time major champion felt Koepka could’ve done more. Given he didn’t birdie either of the two par-5’s, Woods was on to something.

“He played well. I mean, he hit a couple loose tee shots today that ended up in good spots, but I think that was probably the highest score he could have shot today,” Woods said.

“He left a few out there with a couple putts that he missed. But it could have easily been a couple better.”

The 29-year-old Koepka’s last six rounds in the PGA Championship have been in the 60’s –  including two 63’s – the first person to have done so twice in the championship’s 101-year history.

He joins Greg Norman and Vijay Singh as the only two players to have shot 63 twice in major championship golf. Norman and Koepka have also shot 63 at THE PLAYERS.

Koepka has now led the championship for three straight rounds, having held the 54-hole lead last season before claiming the victory at Bellerive Country Club.

“That was one of the best rounds I’ve played probably as a professional,” Koepka admitted Thursday after needing just 25 putts and leading the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.

“This golf course is brutal. It tests every asset of your game. You’ve got to drive the ball straight. It’s long, so you’ve got to hit it far and really position yourself with some of these shots in. You can’t take a shot off, and that’s what I love.”

While the massive New York crowd was vocally in Woods’ corner, willing him to keep pace, it was Koepka who seemed to feed off their energy. When Woods made an eagle to get within four, Koepka responded with another birdie on the next hole. Woods would three-putt for bogey.

It was like watching what Woods used to do at his peak – almost bully others into errors. It was intimidating stuff.

“(My game has) never been this confident. I think I’m still learning, understanding my game, and I’ve figured it out, and I think over the next few years, I’m excited for what’s to come,” Koepka added.

“I understand a lot more about my misses, where to hit it, and major championships I just suck it up, and you don’t always have to aim at the flag like you do in regular events. Sometimes it’s just about how few bogeys and doubles you make this week.”

Prior to the event, Koepka felt a couple under par might be the winning score through 72 holes. But now he plans to change that. He won’t be playing defense.

“It’s always nice being out ahead. But you take a hole off, it could change very quickly out here. So you’ve just got to keep the pedal down.

“I’ve just got to go out there and focus on me. I’m not really concerned about what’s going on (with others).”

It was like watching what Woods used to do at his peak – almost bully others into errors. It was intimidating stuff.

“(My game has) never been this confident. I think I’m still learning, understanding my game, and I’ve figured it out, and I think over the next few years, I’m excited for what’s to come,” Koepka added.

“I understand a lot more about my misses, where to hit it, and major championships I just suck it up, and you don’t always have to aim at the flag like you do in regular events. Sometimes it’s just about how few bogeys and doubles you make this week.”

Prior to the event, Koepka felt a couple under par might be the winning score through 72 holes. But now he plans to change that. He won’t be playing defense.

“It’s always nice being out ahead. But you take a hole off, it could change very quickly out here. So you’ve just got to keep the pedal down.

“I’ve just got to go out there and focus on me. I’m not really concerned about what’s going on (with others).”

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